Government announces new in-home aged care program

elderly woman being helped out of chair by carer

The federal government has announced plans to create a new in-home aged care super-program to streamline the current system of aged care at home.

The Support at Home Program (SaHP), an in-home aged care service, is intended to replace a range of programs including the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP), the Home Care Packages (HCP) Program, the Short-Term Restorative Care Program (STRC) and private residential respite programs.

“We will develop this program in consultation with senior Australians and community stakeholders,” a health department spokesperson  says.

The new mega-program is being created in response to recommendations made in the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety to allow more older Australians to stay in their homes for longer.

YourLifeChoices’ Older Australians Wellbeing Survey found that most retirees want to age at home. Being able to remain in the family home and in a familiar community have been found to enhance feelings of wellbeing.

However, close to 100,000 people were waiting for approved in-home aged care packages to be delivered before the 2021 Federal Budget. More funds were allocated but tens of thousands are still waiting.

The lengthy queue was described as “cruel and discriminatory” in a scathing aged care royal commission report, which found many people were dying while waiting or forced into residential aged care.

Read: Trials and triumphs of at-home care: what you should know

The government has admitted failures in the existing program. It says in-home aged care currently consists of several programs that have different approaches to assessment, eligibility, service providers, funding and fees.

“The system can lead to inequitable outcomes for senior Australians, as people with the same needs receive different supports, and not enough funding is spent on direct care,” the government says in the paper outlining its proposed new system. “As a result, the system is complicated and can be confusing for senior Australians and their families.”

The government says the SaHP would reform all aspects of the delivery of in-home aged care, including assessment, reablement and restorative care, to individualised support plans, clarity on service inclusions, funding of providers and regulation of the market.

Older Australians would receive individualised services, based on their assessed aged care needs and personal circumstances, rather than being placed in one of the four broad home care package levels.

Read: Podcast: At last, a common-sense approach to at home care

Access to a new program for goods, equipment, assistive technologies and home modifications needed to live safely and independently would be improved and supported by a new funding model.

Point-of-delivery payments for service providers would be introduced, reducing the need for excessive reporting.

“New assessments would focus on independence, providing senior Australians with guidance and support to delay functional decline,” the government says.

“Senior Australians would have greater choice between providers to deliver their care. A risk-proportionate regulation model is being developed to support care businesses and care workers to participate in the delivery of safe and high-quality aged care services in a home environment.”

Read: New data shows how to make big savings on home care

The program is still in a consultation phase, with older Australians being asked to provide their thoughts on key parts of the plan, including assessment arrangements, provider choice and better support for informal carers.

To participate in the consultation, the government has set up the Ageing and Aged Care Engagement Hub where older Australians can share their views on how the system should be reformed.

The hub features online surveys and consultations, focus groups and opportunities to share views in writing.

What have your experiences with home care been like? Are you confident the proposed new program will deliver better care? Will you offer your input? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by Brad Lockyer

Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.

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